Civil War books (more correctly, the War Between the States) will forever hold a special fascination for most Southerners. Perhaps it is so because we can never quite lay it to rest. This one will be easy and interesting reading for the men as well as the ladies.
A remarkable woman, this Lucy Petway Holcombe Pickens, the wife of Francis Wilkinson Pickens, who was governor of South Carolina on the eve of the Civil War. Described as "one of the South's great and brainy belles," "beautiful, intelligent, capricious," Lucy was not content to live the life of a typical 19th century Southern belle. She was oft heard say "Submissiveness is not my role, but certain platitude on certain occasions are among the innocent deceits of the sex."
Lucy Holcombe Pickens was a woman whose life touched every strata of society, wherever she lived. Her story begins in Tennessee, moves to Tsar Alexander II's court in Russia, and on to the governor's mansion in South Carolina through the horrors of The War. She was determined to marry "the right man," feeling that "a woman with wealth or prestige garnered from her husband's position could attain great power." She urged her husband to accept a diplomatic mission to the court of Tsar Alexander, and in St. Petersburg Lucy captivated all with her beauty and charm. She became First Lady of South Carolina just in time to encourage a Carolinian unit name in her honor (The Holcombe Legion) off to war. Lucy suffered and triumphed in almost equal measure. She was hauty, independent, flirtatious, courageous - and very patriotic!
Lucy Holcombe Pickens and her "innocent deceits" have been rescued by the author, whose meticulously research not only gives us a glimpse of Lucy's life but also reveals much about Rebel society. Also included in the book is a brief PICKENS family chart. Truly a "must read" for history and Civil War buffs.
Too often we want so much to get into the story that we fail to read the Preface and the Acknowledgments. Please don't do that here. You may be surprised to learn of Lucy's "Texas connections," and that she is the only woman to have her image engraved on Confederate paper currency.
Queen of the Confederacy, The Innocent Deceits of Lucy Holcombe Pickens by Elizabeth Wittenmyer Lewis. 253 pp, illus., appendices, chapter notes, bibliography, index; c. 2002. $24.95 (University of North Texas Press, Denton)